“You don’t know the half of it,” he growled. He gathered another handful of her bottom and squeezed.
An electric thrill forked through her. After zinging wildly all over her body, the sensation settled in her nipples, drawing them to tingling points.
“See? Don’t waste your time attempting to ‘reform’ me. It’s a lost cause.” He muttered, almost too low for her to hear: “I’m a lost cause.”
That wasn’t the sort of conclusion one came to on one’s own. Someone had taught him a lie, etching it not only on his mind, but in his soul. Whoever it was, Alexandra despised them—on behalf of Rosamund and Daisy, and on behalf of Chase Reynaud himself. She couldn’t allow such a falsehood to pass unchallenged.
“Chase.” She softened her touch, smoothing back his hair. “No one’s a lost cause.”
His eyes held a clash of emotions. Doubt, mixed with a desperate yearning to believe. Denial, warring against desire. Push, tethered to pull.
Don’t imagine things, she told herself. In all likelihood, his eyes merely reflected the confused emotions in her own.
His grip on her bottom went firm as a decision. Her breath caught. In a flash, he’d rolled her onto her back, pinning her beneath him.
“Listen to me,” he said. “If I were any sort of decent man—one who could be trusted to care about anyone other than himself—I wouldn’t have a governess flat on her back, beneath me, on the nursery floor. If you refuse to believe that, I’ll have to teach you a lesson.”
She gave him a teasing smile. “What if I teach you one first?”
She kissed him square on the forehead.
He kissed her back, square on the lips.
And the passion of it took her breath away.
Chase kissed her forcefully, to prove what he was. There was no tenderness in it, only punishment. A good lashing with his tongue rather than a switch.
If everyone else was playing pirate, he was going to play pirate, too.
Pirates took. They seized. They plundered.
He kissed his way down her neck—her delicate, lovely neck—while he skimmed his hand the full length of her torso, tracing the contours of her body through the thin muslin of her frock. The embrace he meant to be punishing became much too tender.
“Alexandra,” he whispered.
Her friends called her Alex, but he wasn’t her friend. He was her employer, her superior in society, and a practiced rake. One who could ravish her right here, right now on the creaking schoolroom floor, amid the scattered books and slates and chalk.
Instead, all he wanted was to kiss her for hours. Days.
Every woman was unique, but she was just so different. Strange and brave and clever. She made him different, too. For once, he wanted to slow down, take time to explore and notice everything about her, rather than hide from himself.
Her tongue shyly caressed his. Each light, teasing pass was a gift. Her first tastes of passion, and she shared them with him. Freely. Sweetly.
In her arms, he could almost dream he deserved it.
He’d never wanted to believe anything more. But she didn’t know—couldn’t begin to understand—how far he’d strayed from the path of respectability.
Chase was so lost, he’d fallen straight off the map.
He broke the kiss and rose up on one elbow, needing to see her. She stared up at him with dark, glassy eyes. Her lips were plump and reddened from his kisses.
“By God, you’re lovely.”
Her skin warmed with a bashful glow. If she’d been lovely a moment ago, she was radiant now.
And he was in very deep trouble.
The moment was precipitously ruined by the sounds of two girls crashing up the stairs. He and Alexandra were barely able to scramble to their feet and straighten their clothing before Rosamund and Daisy barreled into the room. Each girl had a slice of cake in one hand and a jam-stuffed roll in the other.
“Boo.” Daisy used her sleeve to wipe jam from her mouth. “You escaped.”
“We’ll practice our knots and do better next time,” Rosamund told her sister.
“There will be no next time,” Chase said sternly. “No more piracy.” He waved expansively at the piratical decor. “In fact, tomorrow I am going to take all—”
“He’s going to take all of us on an outing,” Alexandra interjected.
“An outing?” Rosamund sounded incredulous.
Chase was incredulous, too.
“I thought we weren’t allowed outings,” Rosamund said.
“You are absolutely correct,” Chase replied. “And that is why I’m—”
“He’s making an exception tomorrow,” she interrupted.
Oh, now really. This was an act of shameless betrayal.
Daisy cheered as she bounced on the bed. “Where are we going?”
Chase stood tall. “I am not t—”
“Mr. Reynaud’s not telling.” His treasonous governess spoke over him once more. “He said it’s meant to be a surprise. Isn’t it wonderful?”
He left the room on an exasperated curse.
Very well. If they wanted an outing, he would give them one. And it would be highly educational.